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Languages of Heterodoxy: Translating Religious Dissent

Posted By Claudia Rossignoli, Monday, May 22, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Organizers: Eugenio Refini, Claudia Rossignoli, Eleonora Stoppino


The translation into the Italian vernacular of doctrinal, spiritual and exegetical texts written by Reformation thinkers had a direct and significant impact on the way in which sixteenth-century Italian believers approached, interpreted and experienced faith. Translations from the works of leading reformers, including Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, Bullinger, Juan de Valdés had a central function in disseminating ideas and aspirations. But alongside their spiritual message, these translations offered a renewed language to express religious attitudes and articulate spiritual needs, becoming a crucial medium for the expression of religious dissent. A uniquely varied body of works, exemplifying the transmission, interpretation, and appropriation of values and beliefs across cultures, communities and languages, they also highlight the crucial function of intermediaries in the transfer of religious meaning across different cultural systems. And yet their linguistic significance remains virtually unexplored, except for a number of studies concentrating on the circulation of single works or specific individuals. This panel aims to investigate this less charted aspect of the circulation of Reformed ideas, and will aim to address (without being limited to) the following issues:


  • The mapping of communities and social groups in terms of the doctrinal, linguistic, or even political factors involved in the production and circulation of these texts. A case in point would be Renée of France’s circles in Ferrara and Montargis;
  •  The physical characteristics of the volumes in which these translations were transmitted and their principal channels of production and circulation;
  • The presence and use of paratextual materials, and their function in explicitly framing these texts within a defined spiritual and theological approach to reform;
  • The mediating and often transforming function of translators;
  • The strategies they employed to transmit to their audiences notions and attitudes often inextricably rooted in the culture and identity of different countries and cultural traditions;
  • The linguistic and rhetorical strategies translators chose to utilize, and the connections between such strategies and contemporary linguistic theories and debates;
  • Issues of authorship, anonymity, censorship and literariness;
  • The relationship between these texts (and their translating techniques and approaches) and contemporary translations of the Scripture, especially of books with particular exegetical and theological interest (such as the Psalms);
  • The ways in which the imposition by the Catholic authorities of a specific  linguistic framework affected the individual’s assimilation of doctrinal principles and involvement into religious behaviours.


Proposals for this panel (in adherence with RSA guidelines) should include:

-Title (15-word maximum);

-Abstract (150-word maximum), and keywords;

-CV, with affiliation and contact details (300-word maximum, no prose bios).

Please send your proposals to by 31st May. 

Tags:  heterodoxy  Italy  language  Religion  religious discourse  translation 

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